Perhaps you got tired of feeling like you are renting Microsoft Office rather than buying it. Maybe you were just too broke at the time you had to renew, to afford the next upgrade. Me, I was put off by the radical makeover between Word 2003 and Word 2007. So the first thing to know about Open Office is that it greatly resembles Word 2003 in the layout of the toolbar and other bells n whistles. Well, maybe the first thing you ought to know is that Open Office is free while the other word processing programs are not.
The third thing users ought to know about Open Office is that you do not have to pick and choose between a Basic Version, Home and Student, or the Professional Version – there is just one version and one download, complete with the whole kit n kaboodle. It includes the word processing program, called Writer. It includes the spreadsheet program, called Calc but listed as Spreadsheet. It includes the database program called Base (but listed as Database in the drop-down menu). It includes Impress (a Presentation program) and Draw (for Drawing), too. You can feel free to grow into it as you gain practice and experience with it.
So let's assume you have downloaded the program from the nice O-O people at OpenOffice.org. So you click on the icon and a page comes up with all the icons arrayed across the top and you have no idea how to begin to make a simple letter. Oh, come on, be brave and hunt and peck around and see what they do. You can always hit the Undo symbol to get back to what you had before.
Users can use Cut, Copy, and Paste, or one can just hit Ctrl+C to copy, Ctrl+X to cut, and Ctrl+V to paste.
At this point I am going to try to insert screen prints of the drop-down menus in the top toolbar. And let me recommend customizing your window to show all your toolbar options because it will make your life a bit easier.
Going from left to right the headings on the main toolbar are: File. Edit. View. Insert. Format. Table. Tools. Window. And last but not least, Help. Or as I call it, HELP!!!
Save As allows you to save the current document as another version of the same O-O doc, as a template, as text, as HTML, or even as several versions of Word. There is a button on the toolbar to save your doc as a PDF – yes, one-stop conversion to a PDF. This conversion enables you transmit finished documents as email attachments to those who do not have Open Office or even a recent version of Word. It also helps to convert to PDF if you have data in columns that do not stay in their fixed slot when sent.
The Insert: Special Characters tool open a box with a wealth of characters to choose from. There are whole alphabets for Greek like this one Ψ, Hebrew like this one פ, Cyrillic (Russian) like this one Ѭ, Arabic like this one ڄ. I did not realize it till today but you can even spell whole words by clicking on characters in succession and then clicking OK.
Others characters available include the symbols for the four suits of a deck of cards, mathematical symbols, extra punctuation marks such as those used in footnotes, several currency symbols, the trademark symbol shown here ™, fractions, arrows, block elements, music notes and symbols like this ♫ – and more. This section alone is worth getting Open Office for.
This is enough for one day, and I have gone on too long for just one introductory article on Open Office. But as you can see by the examples given and the screen prints, one can merrily play with all the bells n whistles for hours at a time.
PS – On my computer I had to use FN+print screen button to get a screen print. Or alt+FN+print screen to get just the current window. Print Screen is the third button to the right of F12 on my laptop.